This post is a little out of the ordinary, because these are anything but ordinary times.
We have talked a lot about labels, diagnoses, parental fear and the messages that we must send our kids to help them pursue their best lives. Heavy stuff, heart stuff, the stuff of parenting a child with a difference!
Unfortunately even a global pandemic does not signal a timeout or give us a pass on our responsibility to maintain our high expectations parenting stance. We don't get to raise the white flag and give up.
Tantamount to high expectations parenting is sending our child messages with our words and actions that he or she is "capable". It is harder to maintain this stance when we are "on our own" with our child full-time. Many of us are now tasked with being our child's parent, teacher, therapist and playmate all rolled into one. Exhausting yes, but this time offers some unique opportunities to send our child positive messages even as we attempt to "do it all".
An equally important habit of high expectations parents is self-compassion and giving ourselves permission to make mistakes and learn from them. I guarantee that you will not do everything just like your child's favorite teacher does. You may not be able to motivate your child to get her tongue to the roof of her mouth like the speech therapist does, and you may not nail a perfect 10 (or even a 5) on the physical therapy exercises that have been prescribed.
But take heart, research and experience proves that the messages your child receives over time from you, the most important person in his or her life are infinitely more important than perfect execution of at-home instruction or therapy.
So as you imperfectly go about your stay-at-home days, I encourage you to find new ways to challenge your child and let him know that you believe in him. Here are a few:
Stretch your child beyond his (and your) comfort zone during household tasks
Swallow your fear that something will break or that he will get hurt and give him a little responsibility at home--measuring the flour for a recipe, picking up a paint brush for a room you are redoing, or folding towels (resist the urge to refold, this definitely sends the wrong message).
Raise academic standards during playtime
Find a quiet moment to encourage your child to do a few extra math problems, have her tell you about the chapter she is reading, or think out of the box and task her with making up some "hard" math problems for you to solve (the only rule is she has to have the answer herself). Try these ideas in a playful, non-school setting--on the back of a napkin at Diary Queen, on a hike or sitting in the sand--your child may just surprise you! If so, voila you have just raised standards. Now that you know what is possible, you can build on new challenges in the future.
Get in some therapy while "doing your day" (and get some stuff done at the same time)
Blow sawdust off boards as dad cuts them in the garage. Get in some solid weighbearing exercise carrying bags of groceries in each hand. Practice tongue stretches with a dab of peanut butter on the roof of your child's mouth at lunch time, Or my personal favorite, increase hand strength while crushing garlic cloves for dinner.
The first time you try these "Challenge Cheats"may take a little planning. But before you know it, you will begin discovering a lot more opportunities ocurring naturally during the course of the day that address your child's IEP goals!
I already know what you are thinking. "Thanks, Dr. Deb for all the admirable and heart warming ideas for addressing IEP goals while sending positive messages my kid's way. But I have a real fear that my child is losing ground. He had gaps before, and now it is going to be even worse."
A little regression is expected with all kids, but lost time can seriously impact our kids' quality of life, behavior and risk for school failure.
Another characteristic of high expectations parents is that we are steely-eyed realists about our child's current functioning, while at the same time holding a vision for what is possible.
Therefore, if you are worried about your child losing ground while school is not in session during the pandemic are are the steps to follow: